Abu Ghraib prison became famous for abuses carried out by US forces in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad on July 18, 2003. AFP Photo
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BAGHDAD // Iraq has closed Abu Ghraib prison, made infamous by Saddam Hussein’s regime and US forces, due to security concerns following a mass breakout last year, the justice ministry said on Tuesday.

The country is suffering a protracted surge in violence that has claimed more than 2,550 lives so far this year, and the area west of Baghdad where the prison is located is particularly insecure.

“The ministry of justice announced the complete closure of Baghdad Central Prison, previously (known as) ‘Abu Ghraib,’ and the removal of the inmates in cooperation with the ministries of defence and justice,” it said in an online statement.

The statement quoted Justice Minister Hassan Al Shammari as saying that 2,400 inmates arrested or sentenced for terrorism-related offences have been transferred to other facilities in central and northern Iraq.

“The ministry took this decision as part of precautionary measures related to the security of prisons,” Mr Al Shammari said, adding that Abu Ghraib prison is “in a hot area.”

It was not immediately clear whether the closure was temporary or final.

The prison is located between Baghdad and the city of Fallujah, which has been held by anti-government fighters since early January.

The prison served as a notorious torture centre under now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein, with an estimated 4,000 detainees perishing there.

Abu Ghraib later became a byword for abuses carried out by US forces following the 2003 invasion when photographs surfaced the following year showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated by American guards, igniting worldwide outrage.

* Agence France-Presse